Last weekend I traveled to civilization to spend time with Aneesa and Kerissa. This meant me taking a 6.40pm bus from Taean, to Ansan in the Gyenoggi Do province, where Kerissa would be hosting Aneesa and I for the weekend. The trip cost far less than I had anticipated, even though the destination was further than my commute to see Aneesa (but we both live in the same province!). That to me was a good deal.
The 3 hour trip went by fairly quickly since I had occupied myself with some episodes of Game of Thrones which I watched on my Samsung Galaxy S2. Prior to my arrival in Korea, the mere thought of a touch screen phone made me cringe. I never believed I would own one, mostly out of fear that I would break it. However, here you are left with little choice but to get one and so far, I’ve been very happy with mine. After safely arriving in Ansan and getting a cab to Kerissa’s apartment, I spent some time with the girls, ate, showered and called it a night.
The next day we were all scheduled to go into Seoul. Kerissa had booked couples massages for herself and Aneesa and I had a few things to buy. My suggestion for us to travel together fell on deaf ears since Aneesa insisted I do things on my own. She assures me that it is merely to teach me how to navigate on my own, although I suspect she just likes to be rid of me sometimes 🙂
We began our journey together at Jungang station where we took the subway. Soon the girls got off to transfer to another train so that they could get to their destinations. Now, on my own, I planned my route, and continued on to the first of my destinations, Namdemun market in Hoehyeon. The reason for my stop was to acquire Aneesa’s early birthday gift and our second possession as a couple (the first being this blog). Now this gift is something I have wanted to own since I was still in high school but never had the finances to buy. Lucky for me, I have a partner who is equally enthusiastic and eager. This gift of course is a DLSR camera. A Nikon D5100 to be precise.
We had been discussing making a purchase of this nature for quite some time so when I arrived in Korea, we worked out that we could make it happen. So began the task of figuring out what we wanted, how much we could afford to spend, and where to get it. This led us on a venture of browsing countless shopping websites, consulting with more knowledgeable friends, reading every related forum we could find, all to satisfy Aneesa’s need for being prepared. Ultimately, with all the legwork done, Aneesa left the final choice to me, since I would most probably be the one carrying it around most of the time. Our choice being made, we then searched for places to make our purchase. Our search, lead us to davidsmeaton.com, the site that directed me to my aforementioned first destination. By following his detailed guide, I was able to find my way to the camera stores. I decided to check out a few stores before going to the preferred store described in David’s blog. This helped me get a better feel for how flexible the prices were, and how much prices could be dropped by. I believe I had saved the best for last because when I went into Yesdica , I was greeted by the friendly Mr. Choi who spoke good English, and went the extra mile to match or better any prices I got at the other stores; he even threw in some accessories at an excellent total price. I left Namdemun feeling quite happy with my purchase since I received a much bigger discount than I had anticipated.
The next stop on my journey, advised by both Aneesa and Kerissa, was Myeong-dong. Being one of Seoul’s main shopping districts, it features many retail stores and boasts a wide variety of internationally branded outlets. It is also a hub for fashion and sightseeing. This was my first time shopping on my own here in Korea and I really enjoyed it. After spending a year in Johannesburg and often accompanying my uncle Iqbal on his shopping adventures, I had learned to enjoy the idea of going from store to store, gauging what is good and what isn’t. I decided that I deserved to spend some money since I had done so well with my haggling in Namdemun. My initial reason for stopping here was just to buy a pair of running shoes because I had decided to take up jogging to keep fit. I got my shoes… and shorts… and a fancy running shirt… and a haircut. I had time to kill because the girls were still busy, so I made the most of it. My time spent in Myeong- dong synchronized perfectly with the girls allowing us to meet at Hongik University Station.
As Faraaz mentioned, Kerissa had booked me a massage as an early birthday present. I was looking forward to this because a massage was just what I needed after my horrible last week. She hadn’t been to this particular spa before so we got lost trying to find it. After lengthy discussions on the phone with a Korean lady, we eventually found our way by enlisting the help of a lady who worked at the local Paris Baguette. (Note: Korean people can very seldom give decipherable directions to foreigners). We arrived at Robin Therapy (Apgujeong) and were met by two ladies who could not speak or understand a word of English. This did not bode well. I genuinely feel that if a place wants to cater to English-speakers then there should at least be one person working there who speaks English. Nevertheless, through hand signals and sign language, we were asked to get ourselves ready for the massage and settled ourselves on the beds. We were in a tiny treatment room that we had to share with a third Korean person who was already there when we arrived. I felt that this was also quite uncomfortable but what was the point in complaining when no one would understand?
The massage itself was rather odd. We were frequently strapped to some electrical equipment with no explanation, then unstrapped without any machines being used (??). The lady who was massaging Kerissa seemed attuned to Kerissa’s needs and asked her constantly if she was ok. As for my masseuse; she was not bothered about my comfort level or pain tolerance. I spent most of the massage gritting my teeth and yelling loudly for her to be gentle. The last straw was when she dropped a hot stone on to my bare back and almost burnt off my sensitive skin. When it ended, I was glad and could not wait to run away from that place. I appreciate Kerissa’s gift but wish I had enjoyed the experience. No good review from me, Robin Therapy in Apgujeong!
We headed to Hongdae (Hongik University Station) to meet Faraaz and eat since we were starving. Faraaz has become really good at the concept of punctuality and meeting people since I left South Africa last year. He was ready and waiting for us, surrounded by big bags of his purchases. I raised my eyebrow but said nothing. I remember all the years when I would have to beg Faraaz to come shopping with me and now suddenly he’s in Korea and he loves shopping. Odd.
We headed first to a Greek restaurant for lunch where Faraaz and I were very unimpressed with the small selection of food on the menu. We left and I escorted them down the stairs to one of my favourite Indian restaurants in Seoul. Yeti, is in the hippest part of the neighborhood, a short walk from clubs and pubs galore. As a fellow blogger described it: “You wouldn’t be surprised to find Aladdin lounging on the floor in this basement restaurant, smoking opium with voluptuous, dark-haired women. OK, maybe you would be surprised. The point is, Yeti has a desert-tent, den-of-thieves vibe. It’s dimly lit and smells of incense; most of the seating is on the floor, atop patchwork cushions and pillows; silky cloth hangs from the ceiling; hookahs are always within arm’s reach, ready for the smoking.”
I love this place. The food is really good, the meat is halal and if you ask for spicy, you get spicy. Not kimchi-peppery spicy. Masala and chili spicy. Yum. We ordered a lot of food including samoosas, lassi, nan, tandoori chicken & king prawns as well as curries. Afterward we lazed around the table and examined Faraaz’s purchases because we were too full to move. Haha! For directions and information on Yeti, scroll down to the bottom of this post.
Our last stop for the day was the Hoho Myoll Café. It was a 15 minute walk from Hongik University (right near Sangsu Station) but it was somewhere I really wanted to see. I find myself unable to resist going to at least one cute café when I am in Seoul. HoHo Myoll is a whimsical, cute, and cozy cafe that had a VW bus in the corner of the café. If you didn’t know, I love these VW buses and how could I not go to a café whose décor was centered around it? The menu wasn’t amazing but the service was welcoming and the décor was super adorable. It was a sweet café. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Directions to the Hoho Myoll Cafe:
Get off at Sangsu Station Exit 2, turn left and walk toward Hongik University. You’ll see it on the right.
Directions to Yeti:
Go out Exit 9 (not 5!!) at the Hongik University station. Make the first left (not at the intersection with the KFC right when you exit the station, but the next left). Keep going until you pass the Lotteria and you see Hongik University across the street. Turn right and take the first right and start walking up the hill. It will be in the basement of the building next to the Smoothie King. Find them on Facebook here for their contact details.
Lastly, here is a picture of me getting acquainted with my amazing new birthday gift… you’re the best Faraaz 🙂